Productivity Hack: Do Not Disturb



Phone calls, Skype Calls, e-mails and other Instant Messaging – these are all interruptions we deal with every single working day. Annoying, I know. And it kills productivity. Taking that call or dealing with that e-mail is not the thing which takes time (well, maybe a little) but it’s the fact that you need to re-focus which has the negative impact on your productivity.

Each time your focus is pulled away from a task, you need to shift your focus to this new task – answering Skype or the phone – and then you have to re-focus again on the task you were busy with in the first place. This could take a few seconds or even a few minutes – depending on the intensity of the task.

And this is exactly where time is lost and productivity is lowered.

The solution is simple: Eliminate those potential interruptions.

Turn your phone off while working on tasks. Close your inbox. Change your Skype status to “Do Not Disturb”. People can leave a message and that e-mail can wait for an hour or two. Do not give in to the “available on demand” phenomena. Eradicate interruptions from your working life. This very small change in habit can have a massively positive impact on your productivity.


Are you feeling overwhelmed – too much to do in too little time? Are you worried about your productivity and time management? Here’s a free Productivity and Time Management Audit to help you take control:




E-mails: The 3 Minute Rule

3 Minute Rule

One thing which can seriously affect our time management and productivity is e-mails. We get a flood of them each day – some spam, some with good information and some needing specific action on our part. The problem is that it can rule our lives – if we allow it to.

One way I have found to combat this issue, is implementing the 3 Minute Rule.

Here’s how it works: When checking your e-mails, ask yourself this question: “Can I deal with this issue in less than 3 minutes?”

If the answer is “yes”, deal with the e-mail and file it away. If the answer is “no”, move it to a folder named “To Be Actioned”.

Schedule time in each day to deal with all e-mails in the “To Be Actioned” folder – deal with the entire batch in one session. Then file it away.

Working with the 3 Minute Rule has many benefits:

  • Ensures your inbox doesn’t get clogged up
  • No e-mails (and actions) slips through the cracks
  • Saves time (less toggling between tasks)
  • Helps to keep you focused on specific tasks

Personally, I only check e-mails three times per day – first thing in the morning, midday and towards the end of the day. I use the 3 Minute Rule on all three occasions every day and slot in one task session per day, to deal with e-mails in my “To Be Actioned” folder. This is usually in the late afternoon. At the end of each day, my inbox is clear and I have attended to all e-mails for that day (either filed, replied or deleted).

Acton point: Implement the 3 Minute Rule in your office for one week and note the difference it makes to your e-mail handling, time management and productivity.


Protecting your Company’s Name

Today is guest blogging day at Talking Business, so we have brilliant legal insights from Patricia Barclay (Bonaccord).

When you incorporate a company you have to choose a name that is not already in use however even slight deviations can be allowed. Around 40 companies are registered using the name BONACCORD. Some sound quite similar: Bonaccord Lets LLP, Bonaccord Leasing Limited, Bonaccord (Real Estate) Limited, Bonaccord Properties Limited and so on. I do not know if these businesses are related but regardless there is little to stop me independently setting up another called for example Bonaccord Furnished Lettings Ltd. Clearly there is a risk of confusion here which if I am first on the market with a service I would like to avoid.

The most effective way of protecting your company name is to register the key element – here Bonaccord – as a trademark in those countries where you provide goods or services. This is not usually expensive and in the UK can cost as little as £160. Registration lasts for 10 years and can be renewed indefinitely. Registration allows you to stop anyone else using the name in relation to the same goods or services including as a company name. In general you can register your own marks following the advice at although professional advisers are available.

You can also register the name of your company as a domain name with the most popular suffixes in your sector eg .com or This is not nearly as powerful as a trademark but it may dissuade genuine traders from setting up with a similar name as most people want to secure a good domain name and if they cannot get it may well look for another name.

Whether registering a trademark or a domain name be sure that it is registered in the correct name which will usually be that of your business and not in that of an individual manager or a supplier such as a web designer.
Finally be watchful for anyone using your name or trademark inappropriately and take rapid action. In addition to normal legal redress you may also be able to obtain help from Trading Standards if the public are being misled.

Patricia Barclay of Bonaccord is an internationally experienced life sciences lawyer with extensive board level experience which means that she brings pragmatic, commercially relevant solutions to businesses who need help commercialising life science research or ideas.

Digital Marketing

Today is Guest Blog day at Talking Business and we have Joanne Dolezal providing insights into digital marketing.

Digital Marketing (also known as Internet, Web or Online Marketing) is a collective name for marketing activity carried out online, as opposed to traditional marketing through print media, live promotions, TV and radio advertising.

It allows for accurate targeting and excellent reporting, making it far easier for even the lay person to judge whether digital marketing activities are having the desired effect or not.
Digital Marketing covers everything to do with your website, including Search Engine Optimisation – getting found online – and measuring where visitors to your website are coming from, what they’re at and which pages are most popular, among other things.

Driving visitors to your website, especially an e-commerce website, is essential if you want to achieve a healthy level of sales. Tactics include Search Engine Marketing – anticipating and targeting the language customers use to find products and services like yours – and Pay Per Click advertising – display adverts online.

Social Media is also a Digital Marketing tactic and works well to raise awareness of your brand and create weak links: it takes time, thought and regular effort to build trust with potential customers.

Email Marketing and Mobile Marketing allow you to send targeted communications to a (potential) customers inbox or mobile phone. Both require the recipient’s permission and are just as effective for Customer Retention as for Customer Acquisition. Mobile Marketing in particular has evolved from SMS (text message) based communications to encompass Mobile ‘friendly’ Marketing, with developments in smartphone and tablet technology. If your website is hard to navigate or looks too small on a smartphone screen – and 40% of google searches are made on a mobile device – you may be losing a lot of custom unnecessarily.

Compared to traditional marketing methods such as direct marketing, trade shows and advertising, Digital Marketing often requires a much smaller investment (important for small and medium-size businesses and start-ups).
The rapid growth of Digital Marketing is due to ever-increasing access to and speed of the Internet. Digital Marketing channels are increasingly effective at generating revenue and raising awareness.

The differences between tradition ‘campaign’ style marketing and digital marketing are:

1. Targeted versus Broadcast – over time it is possible to gather and analyse enough data on your target customers that you save considerable time and effort communicating with them. Either via email or mobile marketing, you can send direct messages to your target and past customers to build trust and loyalty. Imagine how much time, money and uncertainty this saves you as you can track opens, clicks and conversions online.
2. Flexibility versus Committed – because you have more control over the who, what, when, where of digital marketing you can control and modify the start and end of any activities within reason, rather than finding you are fixed into a longterm commitment that is either not working for you – based on digital metrics – or not generating the ROI (Return on Investment) you require. Response times are much faster too and campaigns can be set up and delivered in hours, rather than weeks or months.
3. Circular versus Linear – digital marketing encourages you to research, target, test, modify and repeat and tends to be a continuous circular process of learning and modification until you get it right. Traditional marketing campaigns take a lot of planning, but once they’ve ‘left the building’ there’s nothing you can do to change them.
4. ‘Low’ or ‘no cost’ versus Expensive! – print and broadcast media, whilst still effective at brand building, are beyond the means of all but a few businesses. The proliferation of TV networks and channels, online publications and even digital broadcasting have meant that it is ever harder to reach the whole population… but who wants to anyway? You want the ‘right customers’ for your business as they’re more likely to buy from you. ‘Laser vision’ trumps ‘spray and pray’.

If you want to know more about how to apply digital marketing to you business, why not join our next workshop, Digital Marketing ~ Decoded on 15th October 2014 to learn more about this area of marketing. You will gain a clear understanding of how to measure and monitor online traffic and by using this information, you will be able to update your marketing campaigns to drive increased traffic to your business.

If you can’t attend in person but would like to know more, get in touch.

Joanne Dolezal is lead consultant at Dolezal Consulting and a lecturer in Digital Marketing at NESMA, helping to deliver programmes for Digital Marketing Institute and Chartered Institute of Marketing. Joanne holds an MA Marketing and Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing. Joanne has worked across the public sector, private sector and with charities on marketing, branding and communications.

Dolezal Consulting provides marketing driven business growth using an improved strategic focus, a clear marketing plan and delivery through the best possible channels for your business and budget.

The Treasure is in the Follow-up

Treasure is in the followup

If content is king, contact is the super-duper king of all kings! It doesn’t matter if they are your current clients, past clients or prospects – you need to be in constant contact with all people connected to your business. That is, if you want a successful business.

Too many business owners, managers and sales people treat their prospects / leads like one-night-stands. You know….one date and no contact again there-after…sad really.

In recent studies done by the NSEA, a few very interesting statistics came to light. Around 49% of salespeople never follow up with their prospects. Typical one-night-stand tactics. So, they will get an enquiry, reply….and that’s it! No follow-up. Around 27% of salespeople at least bother to make a second contact, but only 10% make more than three contacts with a prospect.

And here’s where it gets really interesting: 80% of sales are made only after the 5th contact with a prospect.

For those “one-night-stand” salespeople out there – only 2% of sales are made after the first contact. That means you are losing out on 98% of your potential sales! Scary thought, indeed.

Now is the time to analyse your prospect follow-up system – and while you’re at it, why not revisit your client care follow-up system too. Remember: Contact is the real king.

Manage a Realistic To-Do List

Look at your To-Do list. Think about each task on that list. How much time do you think each task will realistically take? Now if you tally up the total amount of time needed to accomplish all your tasks today – how much time is that? Scary, isn’t it!

And that is exactly the problem we all face every day. We add more tasks to the list than we can ever dream of completing. We think a task will only take 15 minutes, but in reality, it takes closer to 30 minutes to complete. This leads to a “backlog” of tasks left over from the day before (or last week) and we never seem to catch up – fighting a wish-list instead of managing a To-Do list.

I have found, the best way to conquer this problem, is to slot each task into my diary and treat it as a meeting / appointment.

When I do my weekly planning, I look at each task needing completion and determine a realistic time frame needed. I then prioritise each task (I use colour coding) and slot the highest priority tasks into my diary, along with all the other meetings and commitments. Working my way through the priority list, I slot tasks into my diary – ensuring that all high and medium priority tasks are scheduled for that week. Low priority tasks only get done if and when all higher priority tasks are done, or I delegate it to someone else.

Realistically looking at time frames for tasks ensures that we don’t overload ourselves. Clearly, having 10 hours’ worth of tasks in any 8 hour day will not be achievable. And without proper planning and prioritisation, it is easy to get stuck with the smaller, less important tasks instead of getting the high priority tasks done.

Commit to prioritising, time framing and scheduling your To-Do list for next week (and every week there after).

When to ask clients for referrals

Clients have much more value than “merely” the fee they pay you for your service or product. Long-term client relationships can mean referrals, testimonials, repeat business and much more – if nurtured properly.

One question I get asked often by clients is: “When should I ask my clients for referrals”. The answer is: At any point, from the beginning of your relationship until the end of the relationship. The skill lies in how you ask at the various points in the relationship. There is however one rule which is vital at any and all times you ask for referrals. It is this:

It is not about getting business; it is about sharing value.

No matter when or how you ask a client for a referral, you have to bring this message across clearly. Yes, you want business, but focus on the value you can bring to the referral’s business / life. People love sharing value. If your client clearly understands that you wish to share your valuable skills and knowledge with their contacts, they’ll be happy to refer to you.

We can break the client relationship process into three basic stages: Before transaction (proposal stage), during transaction (project underway) and after transaction (project concluded).

Before Transaction (Proposal Stage)

During this stage, prepare the client for giving you referrals in the future. Make it clear that you will be expecting referrals at a later time. Use language which will bring across that you do business by referral, that you expect referrals from clients and that you wish to share your expertise with their contacts. You might find some clients are perfectly willing to give you referrals at this early stage, before actually working with you. The mere act of preparing them in this way prompts referrals.

During Transaction (Project Underway)

Focus on the progress you have made and the results the client has already experienced in working with you. Keeping the focus on value, ask the client if he/she can think of any contact that might benefit from the same level of value. Ask for the actual names of these contacts and write them down. This conversation might prompt referrals immediately. If not, ask the client if he/she would be willing to refer those people to you, at the conclusion of your project.

After Transaction (Project Concluded)

At this stage, your client should be delighted with your service or product. They should now have first-hand experience of your excellent skills, knowledge and service. Now is the time to be “slightly assertive” and ask for those referrals (if this client has not yet provided any). Refer back to the names the client gave you, during the transaction. Ask if he/she would be willing to refer you at this point. Remember to always focus on the value they have just experienced and the fact that you want to share that with their contacts.

Don’t drop the ball with the client after the transaction is concluded. Remain in contact, continue sharing value and continue getting referrals. Long-term relationships will provide you with referrals – often long after your transaction concluded.